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What's the right approach for a project without aesthetic requirements?

Do what you think looks good
4
67%
Do what you think the user wants it to look like
1
17%
Do something else
1
17%
 
Total votes: 6

Designing for Yourself

September 28th, 2008, 7:53 pm

rollermt
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Should designers create products based on their own aesthetic preferences, even if the target market is someone different? This is a discussion point that frequently comes up and I'd like to hear the board's thoughts.

On one side, a target user is almost always going to have different preferences than the designer himself. On the other hand, a designer's "gut" for what looks good can be very powerful, and users often bend to accept really great stories told through design. No one can execute every style necessary to be a truly complete stylist, and the signature designers we revere are almost always singular in their approach to aesthetics.

What do you think is the right approach for a project without aesthetic requirements? Should you do what you think looks good or should you create requirements that you *think the users will like? How would you approach the problem?

Re:Designing for Yourself

September 29th, 2008, 1:53 am

raytray
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Mostly i don't like the designs which are designed by others even if they are beautiful i will give more preference to my own designs or i will select the designs which are designed by famous persons.
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September 29th, 2008, 2:16 am

desecrator
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1. A good form is a good form.

2. My design is my design.

3. Marketing can take care of the user.

You do the math :P

September 29th, 2008, 6:03 am

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yo
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I don't have a simple answer here. I think you should never design something you don't like, otherwise you wil be working on something for a period of months that you grow to hate. But as a designer, we have to learn to dissect what the consumer is looking for and embody that in both form and function. It should never be about what you "like", but about communicating something through form.

I guess to put it simply, I try to find the overlap between what I believe to be good design, and what I believe the consumer will prefer.

September 29th, 2008, 7:05 am

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Mr-914
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I give you the view point of a few of my projects that I wouldn't buy.

Yo said that if you design something not for you, you might not like the work. To a certain extent this is right. I didn't like the overall direction of a couple projects and I selected a direction for one that was contrary to my personal preferences. However, I enjoyed these projects as challenges.

It's hard to take all of the thoughts one has about what looks good and try another direction. Also, the detailing on these projects is more difficult than on something one is used to.

Moreover, in any project, the designer has to take a broader view. It would be beneficial to the company if we take into account their marketing strategy, graphic design, branding, target market etc when we lay the pen to paper to bang out some product concepts. It's like our constant complaints about GM. It's more effective to drive home one consistent idea (Apple) than ten at the same time (GM even if we take just one division).

Lastly, the user demands an increasingly individual approach. I'm sure that Yo or Richard can attest to the always increasing amount of skus in footwear and sporting goods. Part of this is due to decreased manufacturing cost, but also the demands of the consumer. In order to grow, products have to be developed for increasingly specific user groups. This is part of the reality now and shouldn't even be news.

September 30th, 2008, 10:39 am

rollermt
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I asked the question over at my blog and got this response from one of my co-workers:

the conventional wisdom is that the designer should put him/herself in the shoes of the user and design accordingly, and certainly this approach is the safest. however, the products we admire the most (both designers and consumers) are usually those that break from the expected and fly in the face of the conventional wisdom. for example, it’s hard to think of anything wrong with the ford taurus, but it’s also very hard to think of anything right with it either.

practically speaking, it’s hard to designers to stay employed if they are iconoclasts that refuse to make compromises and design by the guidance of their own aesthetic compass, but breakthrough products are usually the result of just that.

so to me the question the designer must ask him/herself is whether the product at hand should be thought of in evolutionary or revolutionary terms. there isn’t always a clear answer, but if it does call for a revolution, consider designing for yourself.

September 30th, 2008, 11:52 am

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Mr-914
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Maybe a better way to think about it is: put yourself in the future shoes of the user. I feel like, upon reflection, the successful ground breaking products were evident.

October 1st, 2008, 8:53 am

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shoenista
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Mr-914 wrote:Maybe a better way to think about it is: put yourself in the future shoes of the user.
No thanks! I'm midway through designing a range for a client, the majority of which is skyscraper heels and platforms. I only wear flat shoes. I'd break my neck!

I think particularly in the case of fashion design, if you design for the mainstream consumer, you are going to have to design for someone whose taste is miles away from yours for whatever reason. Doesn't mean they have good or bad taste, just very different to yours. I think the easiest thing as a fashion designer is to design for yourself. As a freelancer I've had to develop a design based multiple personality disorder. I consider it a skill.

This client is not looking for a breakthrough product. They would not select it if it was presented to them - they leave it to the brands to create.

October 5th, 2008, 6:36 pm

rollermt
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Thanks to everyone who posted. After listening to everyone's input, here are some of my own thoughts (via my blog)

We should design for ourselves more often. Passionate designers place high expectations on their work and the products they create. Because consumers don’t always expect great product experiences, sometimes we have to show them rather than listen to them. The best way to stay passionate about your work is to do what you think is right for the project. This won’t be the case with every project, but in my experience, when I trust my aesthetic compass I’m right more often than I think.

Aesthetics are an opportunity to connect with people on a cultural level. The work of styling an object can range from matching room decor to representing iconic elements of culture. When aesthetics are used to represent culture, designers have the ability to connect with groups of people on a deeper level. Styling can be challenging when a product needs to be globally acceptable, but even this is achievable as we live in a global society.

Know your aesthetic identity and when you shouldn’t use it. Good designers usually know how to style products for their consumers, but sometimes we struggle. For example, Kaleidoscope recently took on a project to design for pets. Since I’m allergic, I don’t understand the consumer or animal behaviors. I’m contributing ideas to this project, but looking to the pet owners to help choose the best directions. With projects like this, it’s best to recruit an experienced team that can support it’s needs and ensure it’s success.
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